Last week, after I laid out why I agree with Target’s new non-gender assignation policy, a handful of people on social media praised me, called me a great dad, and said they wished more people would raise their kids like I’m raising mine.
AWKWARD. I’ve never committed credit fraud, but when I get praise for being a good parent, that’s what it feels like.
I prefer when people call me an asshole and a terrible father. Because, as my regular readers know (thanks, regular readers!), that’s a lot closer to the truth.
It’s very easy to sit at a keyboard and present your parenting philosophy. It’s easy to talk to strangers across the interwebs about how you do things, why you disagree with the way other parents do things, and what makes your way so effective and successful and perfect. (It’s also what makes non-parents such amazing parents!)
It’s easy because writing about being a good parent and actually being a good parent are two totally different things.
Having a blog and a Facebook page and an occasionally popular opinion doesn’t make me a model dad or any kind of expert.
Half the reason I started Dad and Buried was to put the lie to the idea of the parenting expert. As if anyone knows the “right way” to parent! As if there even is some definitive “right way” to parent.
Until someone is in your shoes, in your house, handling your kids, they don’t know a goddamn thing. They are merely theorizing. At best, they’re explaining why their methods worked for their kids. And unless they start cloning children, I’m gonna guess their kids are different from my kids, and your kids, and his kids, and her kids, everybody’s kids and everybody’s kids and everybody’s kids and everybody’s kids.
Children are like snowflakes. Each one is special and unique (and when there’s a bunch of them they’re a huge, messy inconvenience).
Nobody knows what’s best for your kids except you. Least of all me! I may occasionally write something about a hot topic – like gender politics, or vaccines, or kids in restaurants, or kids on planes, or bronies – that you agree with, and hearing positive feedback is great. But when someone says I’m a great dad, I feel like a fraud. (When someone says I’m a shitty dad? I love it!)
I’m a dad who tries, but, like everyone else, I often don’t try hard enough. I’m a dad who cares, but I often don’t care enough. I mess up constantly. I yell too much, even as we try to teach my son not to yell. I lose patience too often, even as we try to instill patience in my four-year-old. I swear in front of him, I drink in front of him, I do all sorts of things in front of him that I will spend a fair amount of my life telling him he should never do.
I’m no example. I’m no great dad. I’m just a regular guy doing his best. I’m happy when something I write resonates, and I’m happy when something I teach my son sticks, but make no mistake: both of those things are usually just accidents.
It’s the rare parent who deserves to be placed on a pedestal (although single parents probably do), and I’m certainly not him. We’re all in the trenches, and anyone who makes it through another day deserves praise. Parenting is a fickle master. Stuff that works today won’t work tomorrow, and vice versa. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of surviving.
I’m never going to be one of those parents who thinks they’re doing everything right, because even those rare times when I do manage to pull something off, I know I’ll get back to blowing it again in no time.
And I promise to keep writing about all of it.